The Cost of Self Publishing

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There’s so much advice out there about what to do or not to do for self-publishing.  Some of the most common include “Hire a professional graphic design artist to make your covers.  Even if you’re a graphic designer, don’t try to design your own, it’s a mistake.  Hire someone instead.”  Or, “hire an editor.  My god, hire an editor!”

That’s all fine and dandy, and perhaps even is sound advice.  Except…that all costs money.  And if you want someone who is actually good at it, it costs a lot of money.  In fact depending on the size of your manuscript, an editor will probably cost you more than a graphic design artist.  Worse still, if you want custom artwork made, hiring an artist will probably cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Then that art still needs to be turned into a cover.

So, okay, you have a novel you want to self publish.  You want to publish it as strongly as you can.  But you don’t have a penny to spare, let alone $500 or more for just one of these services.  Sure there are cheaper ones out there…so maybe you’re lucky enough to find a cover artist who will do it for you for $100.  That’s still $100.  Not to mention an editor.  To speak nothing of advertising.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to self publish and you want to follow the advice of all of these people and pay for all of these services, you need a fair bit of money up front.  But what if you don’t have that money to spare?

Before anyone says it, I’ll say now what the two most common responses are to that question.  “Go traditional publishing” and “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”

To the first response, this usually comes from people, both those who are published and those who are not, that don’t seem to understand the challenges a writer faces finding an agent and/or publisher when they are an unknown.  Even if you have an amazing story written extremely well, you’re an unknown, and as I wrote in my previous blog about prequels, these industry professionals need to make money.  Not because they are greedy, quite the opposite: they need to live, just like you and I do.

So the other response, “You’ll find a way to make it happen.”  If only it was that easy.  Especially in today’s supposedly ‘recovered’ economy.  Perhaps my viewpoint is unique to where I live, but it would take me years to save up the money to hire editors and graphic designers.  For just one novel.  Let alone more.

“What’s your advice, then?”  Well, my advice is, if you have the skills, do it.  Take the time to do it right.  Research.  Work on it.  And if you have friends with the skills you need and they are willing to do it cheap or free, take advantage of that (but don’t expect them to, just ask, and if they say they can’t or won’t, don’t be offended by it.  Both editing and graphic design are serious and time-consuming skills to develop.)

I’m fortunate to have started developing both of these skills early on.  Editing for my love of writing, and graphic design when I was writing my fan fiction.  I’m no professional at the graphic design end of it, and I’m always learning.  But until I make enough money to hire these professionals, I have to rely on myself and my talented friends.

That is not a sin.  That does not mean your heart isn’t in it or you’re not willing to make sacrifices to make your dream come true.  It just means you’re willing to do whatever you can to work towards your dream.

Because if you don’t, if you say “I don’t have the money, therefore I’ll never get published,” then yes, you’re right, you won’t ever get published.  But if you take the risk, and take the time and make the effort to make your self-published novel the best that you have the resources to make it, then you’re taking steps towards making your dreams come true.

Taking steps, even baby steps, is better than doing nothing at all.

My Dream for the Future

I had an idea, and I hope there comes a day when I can actually make this happen.  I’d love to someday set up an organization that seeks out potential authors and helps them find affordable editors and artists, and even has funds to help them get their first novel off the ground right.  I’m not talking about an agency, we won’t publish it or find a publisher for them, we’ll merely provide them the contacts and resources needed for them to do it.  And education on how to do it.

Due to limited funding, I know we couldn’t help everyone.  But maybe if there were enough people working or volunteering, they could at least read manuscripts from potentials, and if the potentials don’t quite meet the standards needed to qualify, at least give them advice on what they can do to improve and have a better chance the next time they submit.

At the very least, help give budding authors the tools they need to make themselves better and have a chance at getting their names out there.

Here’s hoping I can gather the connections and resources to get something like that off the ground someday :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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